Microsoft Corp. plans to release the next version of its Lync software in the first half of next year, but will be rebranding it as Skype for Business, according to a blog post published on Tuesday.
Microsoft acquired the consumer videoconferencing application in 2011 and has since integrated it into several of its software packages and featured it on its hardware devices as well. Now it’s taking another step to using Skype’s video and voice chat features with its Lync collaboration software that office workers use to exchange instant messages, share documents and calendars, and work together on documents. There will also be a new Lync server release and updates to how Lync is integrated to Office 365.
For current Lync Server 2013 customers, the update to Skype for Business will be free and available to when the product is released next year, according to Microsoft. Office 365 users will also receive automatic updates to include the new integrations.
Users of the Lync software will notice the Skype icons added for calling, adding video to a call, or ending a call. Skype’s call monitor feature that maintains a conversation in a smaller window while a user is active in another application will also be added.
Currently Skype offers business capabilities such as the Skype Manager, which lets administrators create corporate accounts and distribute credit to those accounts. Businesses can also add Skype buttons to their websites to allow a click-to-call feature, register a phone number with Skype, and access special WiFi hotspots around the world.